Helping Others Find their Voice

Ann Jonker

Ann Jonker’s journey to becoming a speech-language pathologist has been an unconventional one. After earning her bachelor’s degree in opera performance, she worked at a record label for five years. While it was a great fit during her early twenties, she realized that her background in opera and communication would work well with speech-language pathology, helping her reach her goal of helping others find their voices.

“I was looking for a master’s program that I felt could play to my strengths, and was in a helping profession,” said Ann.

Speech-language pathologists work with the prevention, assessment, and treatment of a variety of disorders, including communication, speech, language, swallowing, voice, and many more. For Ann, one of the biggest advantages of Grand Valley’s program is that there’s an emphasis on getting student clinicians working with patients from day one.

“Grand Valley has been amazing in helping me on this journey. From our first semester we are working with students and adults who actually have these deficits, delays, or disorders,” Ann said.

As of this year, all of Ann’s classes are in Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall, and she’s incredibly grateful for the new building. She appreciates facilities like the simulation center, and the space to work with students in other disciplines as interprofessional teams.

“A big emphasis here is to bring together students from all different health professions,” said Ann. “We have assignments where we work together to learn how to evaluate and treat patients. Because that is the real world, collaborating with other professionals to solve problems.”

The laboratory facilities available in Finkelstein Hall are one of Ann’s favorite aspects of the building. The technology available in the labs creates more opportunities for students to attain the foundation they need prior to their clinical experiences.

“A big thing that we use is a virtual therapy room, where we work with patients from all over Michigan, providing them with treatment and also giving us the opportunity to grow as clinicians,” she said.

There are many things Ann would like to say to donors to thank them for their support.

“The speech-language pathology program is fairly new—having these gifts, having this building, is really helping to say that we’re a viable program. Thank you!” she said.

After Ann graduates in December, she hopes to use her skills working with families and caregivers. She would also like to earn her PhD and ultimately become a professor.

“I would like my Laker Effect to be able to work with patients and families, and equip them with the tools and resources they need to be independent and allow them to be great communicators,” said Ann.